Report from the Advisory Committee on Teacher Enhancement (ACTE)

Rob Gould

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 11, Number 2 (Fall 2006)


The Advisory Committee on Teacher Enhancement is charged with advising the ASA board on matters involving teaching and statistics education. The ACTE includes 6 regular members appointed by the president and the chairs of other ASA committees with education related charges. This includes the Stat Ed Section chair and the chairs of the joint committees that work with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Mathematical Association of America, and the American Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges.

At our recent meeting in Seattle, two topics were of primary concern. The first is our concern that the ASA become very visible and vocal with respect to national education measures. The recently ASA-endorsed Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education (GAISE) have helped in this effort by providing guidelines that are useful in state-level discussions of educational standards. But unless well-informed statisticians are involved in drafting state standards, these guidelines will not be used. We expressed concern that the ASA, unlike the MAA, was not asked to endorse a trio of bills designed to strengthen math and science education. We will be examining ways to become more visible nationally so that we are consulted by policy makers. We are also concerned about statewide and nationwide attempts to create graduation tests in mathematics; we feel it is vitally important that the ASA have a voice in the design of such exams. Martha Aliaga, ASA Director of Programs, reported that she has been attending meetings of the Math Panel, a national policy-advising panel that might play a role in these issues.

We also discussed a more pleasant problem. The number of members involved in statistics education has grown sufficiently large recently (the Stat Ed section recently passed the 1000 members mark) that communication is becoming a problem. There is a growing sense that different groups within the ASA could benefit if they were more aware of each others' efforts. Also, with growing competition for strategic initiative funds, the statistics education community might benefit by joining efforts on initiatives which it feels are of special importance. To help overcome potential communication challenges, the ACTE is drafting a position paper. Our intent is to update this paper annually and make it public so that the community is aware of the committee's goals and mission for the year. Another proposal was to establish space on the ASA web page devoted to gathering and disseminating information about the many educational activities from the various educational groups within the ASA.

The ACTE was pleased to be invited to report to the board this year at JSM. We presented to the board a number of ACTE-sponsored member initiatives that have gone on to become successful programs. Many of these programs came from a 2001 brain-storming session hosted by Bob Stephenson, who was ACTE chair at the time. One such program is INSPIRE, a distance-learning course that includes a week-long workshop and is designed for first-time AP Statistics teachers. INSPIRE taught two cohorts of AP Stats teachers and will now go "public" in the winter of 2007. The US Conference on Teaching Statistics was held at the Ohio State University in 2005 and hosted over 300 educators from two-year colleges, high schools, four-year colleges and universities. The next USCOTS will be in May, 2007. The TEAMS conference, held at the University of Georgia in 2003, hosted 19 teams. Each team consisted of (at least) one high school teacher, a high school administrator, and a college educator. Teams were charged with developing a plan to improve statistics education in their community. The TEAMS conference led to the establishment of the GAISE, which have since been endorsed by the ASA and NCTM. CAUSE, the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education, also began as an ACTE-supported SI, and has since grown to become a national consortium that hosts the Causeweb — an online set of resources for teaching and research — and the Causeway workshops, which are teaching statistics pedagogy and content to teachers around the country.

The ACTE heard a report about the Meeting Within a Meeting (MWM) that will be held at the next JSM in Salt Lake City. The MWM, proposed by Martha Aliaga, will offer one-day workshops designed to help local teachers (K-12) better teach statistics. The MWM will offer an opportunity for local chapters to get further involved with statistics education at the local level. The MWM will also help feed STEW (Statistics Teaching and Education Website). STEW is an ACTE-sponsored initiative to disseminate quality lesson plans for K-12 teachers.

What does the future hold? We're looking forward to an initiative to improve TA training. At many universities, undergraduates learn most of their statistics from teaching assistants, and the ACTE is teaming with the Stat Ed section to begin to investigate ways in which institutions can share successful methods for TA training. Look for a luncheon roundtable discussion in Salt Lake in 2007 and a panel discussion in Denver in 2008. We're also working on a proposal, again together with the Stat Ed Section, to produce guidelines and materials to prepare K-12 teachers to teach statistics. This initiative will mesh nicely with the new ICMI (International Commission on Mathematics Instruction) and the IASE (International Association of Statistics Education) study "Statistics Education in School Mathematics: Challenges for Teaching and Teacher Education" and, of course, builds nicely on the GAISE.


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